|This Week in History
December 20-26, 1933 & 1944
FDR Broadcasts Two Christmas Eve Addresses to the Nation
Every year during his Presidency, Franklin Roosevelt sent a Christmas Eve greeting to the American people. In his first year as President, the message was delivered from around the national Christmas tree, as the nation began to defeat the pessimism and suffering that had stemmed from the Great Depression. That year of 1933 had seen a whirlwind of legislation designed to get people working, and to set the wheels of industry and agriculture turning again. For the first time in many years, Americans could see that they had a President who would fight for them.
Roosevelt's message that year was buoyant, for the grey, drawn faces he had seen during his 1932 campaign were now beginning to smile a little and there was hope in the air. The President began by saying, "We in the nation's capital are gathered around this symbolic tree celebrating the coming of Christmas; in spirit we join with millions of others, men and women and children, throughout our own land and in other countries and continents, in happy and reverent observance of the spirit of Christmas.
"For me and for my family it is the happiest of Christmases.
"To the many thousands of you who have thought of me and have sent me greetings, and I hope all of you are hearing my voice, I want to tell you how profoundly grateful I am. If it were within my power so to do, I would personally thank each and every one of you for your remembrance of me, but there are so many thousands of you that that happy task is impossible.
"Even more greatly, my happiness springs from the deep conviction that this year marks a greater national understanding of the significance in our modern lives of the teachings of Him whose birth we celebrate. To more and more of us the words 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself' have taken on a meaning that is showing itself and proving itself in our purposes and daily lives.
"May the practice of that high ideal grow in us all in the year to come.
"I give you and send you one and all, old and young, a Merry Christmas and a truly Happy New Year.
"And so, for now and for always, "God bless us, every one."
Eleven years later, America had come out of the Great Depression and had transformed herself into an industrial marvel. But the nation was also fighting a massive world war against fascism in every part of the globe, and President Roosevelt's tone during his last Christmas Eve broadcast was more thoughtful, yet perfectly consistent in outlook with his 1933 address. During 1944, he had set into motion many of the plans and projects which would create modern America. The Bretton Woods monetary system, the United Nations Organization, the G.I. Bill of Rights, and the framework for expanded scientific and technological research, were all in various stages of preparation by the time of Roosevelt's Christmas Eve broadcast from his home at Hyde Park.
This time, Roosevelt began by saying, "It is not easy to say 'Merry Christmas' to you, my fellow Americans, in this time of destructive war. Nor can I say 'Merry Christmas' lightly tonight to our armed forces at their battle stations all over the worldor to our allies who fight by their side.
"Here, at home, we will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American waybecause of its deep spiritual meaning to us; because the teachings of Christ are fundamental in our lives; and because we want our youngest generation to grow up knowing the significance of this tradition and the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace and Good Will. But, in perhaps every home in the United States, sad and anxious thoughts will be continually with the millions of our loved ones who are suffering hardships and misery, and who are risking their very lives to preserve for us and for all mankind the fruits of His teachings and the foundations of civilization itself.
"The Christmas spirit lives tonight in the bitter cold of the front lines in Europe and in the heat of the jungles and swamps of Burma and the Pacific islands. Even the roar of our bombers and fighters in the air and the guns of our ships at sea will not drown out the messages of Christmas which come to the hearts of our fighting men. The thoughts of these men tonight will turn to us here at home around our Christmas trees, surrounded by our children and grandchildren and their Christmas stockings and giftsjust as our own thoughts go out to them, tonight and every night, in their distant places.
"We all know how anxious they are to be home with us, and they know how anxious we are to have themand how determined every one of us is to make their day of home-coming as early as possible. Andabove allthey know the determination of all right-thinking people and nations, that Christmases such as those that we have known in these years of world tragedy shall not come again to beset the souls of the children of God.
"This generation has passed through many recent years of deep darkness, watching the spread of the poison of Hitlerism and Fascism in Europethe growth of imperialism and militarism in Japanand the final clash of war all over the world. Then came the dark days of the fall of France, and the ruthless bombing of England, and the desperate battle of the Atlantic, and of Pearl Harbor and Corregidor and Singapore.
"Since then, the prayers of good men and women and children the world over have been answered. The tide of battle has turned, slowly but inexorably, against those who sought to destroy civilization.
"On this Christmas day, we cannot yet say when our victory will come. Our enemies still fight fanatically. They still have reserves of men and military power. But, they themselves know that they and their evil works are doomed. We may hasten the day of their doom if we here at home continue to do our full share.
"And we pray that that day may come soon. We pray that until then, God will protect our gallant men and women in the uniforms of the United Nationsthat He will receive into His infinite grace those who make their supreme sacrifice in the cause of righteousness, in the cause of love of Him and His teachings.
"We pray that with victory will come a new day of peace on earth in which all the nations of the Earth will join together for all time. That is the spirit of Christmas, the holy day. May that spirit live and grow throughout the world in all the years to come."